Friday, September 19, 2014

Goth of the Week

Aurelio Voltaire! Musician! Singer-songwriter! Animator! Author! Stand-up Comic! Roleplaying game designer! The multitalented Voltaire is well-known in goth circles, and not that unknown outside of them. He occasionally attempts to describe what "gothic" means to the subculture ("We almost never kill people").

Here, have some music:

Sorry I didn't get any gaming content written this week. I will try to get some in before the next Goth of the Week.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Goth of the Week

Gothic Lolita, or Loligoth, fashion is related to the rest of the gothic community, though it is mainly through crossover. Much of the Loligoth community is more closely associated with the general Lolita fashion community in Japan. These particular women dressed in Loligoth fashions are, I believe, in the Harajuku district in Tokyo. I wasn't able to find any further information about their names or the photographer. I found the picture here.

There is some crossover in musical taste between goth and loligoth, though those who follow loligoth fashion might just as easily listen to regular J-Pop. The fashion is not tied as tightly to the music as it is in the West. I'll put some music videos loosely associated with loligoth and other lolita fashion after the cut, one from Japan, one from the UK, and one from the US (the last put together by the musician from scenes in anime videos).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Games I'd Like To Play Redux

Yesterday, Douglas Cole at Gaming Ballistic wrote up some of the games that he'd like to play, and then today Peter V. Dell'Orto at Dungeon Fantastic did the same. Since I'm stuck in the review that I'm writing (for a recent game, of all things), I figured, "what the heck?" and decided to do the same. I've written things like this before, but I like the focus of limiting myself to three games (not a hard and fast rule, but that's what those two gentlemen did). And anyway, my list has changed slightly from those earlier lists.

1) Top Secret. I recently ran across the flowchart that Merle Rasmussen put together in Dragon magazine #40, and looked at my slowly growing draft of a TS retroclone. Then I remembered how much fun the game was, and how much fun it looks now. It's an odd game, occupying a niche closer to the Mission: Impossible TV series than the superheroics of Bond or Bourne (or the movie version of Mission: Impossible), more like Secret Agent/Danger Man or To Catch A Thief than Munich or Three Days of the Condor. And yet, it can manage to fill those other roles as well. Sometimes. When the dice fall right. The person running it would need to have access to a lot of the articles that appeared in Dragon magazine, especially "Pop the Clutch and Roll!" in Dragon #78, which gave a good, gameable system for car chases.

2) Flashing Blades. Especially using the High Seas supplement to play pirates in the Caribbean - but I wouldn't turn down playing in France either! There is still no better game for swashbuckling adventure. Character creation is as quick and breezy as the game system itself. Yeah, there are some clunky bits (weapon skills, notably), but they work without needing to be changed. The idea of having a goal in the form of the careers that a character can pursue is brilliant and quickly puts the players in the position of generating the adventures on their own as they maneuver and intrigue for power and position.

3) Traveller. Classic, Mega-, GURPS, Mongoose, I don't care. I'll even play New Era, T4, or T5 (though I won't be as happy). I do have a strong preference for Classic or Mega-, largely because I like the simplicity of the mechanics and clean feel of the gadgets and setting (Mongoose is a little too baroque for me, though the mechanics are good). GURPS is not a bad choice, though the system isn't as pristine. New Era is alright, but the system was not the best thing that GDW ever came up with. T4/T5 are pretty similar, and I don't like the way that the system has gone much, but at least it isn't SpaceMaster (I kid! I'm kidding! SpaceMaster is totally better than Space Opera. I'm kidding again!) I'd probably like any of them even more if the setting was the Referee's own, developed from the game assumptions, rather than the Imperium universe. Not that I dislike the Imperium, but ever since Virus it's kinda lost its appeal in all eras to me. Well, the GURPS "No Rebellion" alternate timeline is pretty cool. Too bad they had to go to the Interstellar Wars era in 4E, forcing everyone who just wanted to play the default setting to do a tonne of conversions. Easier to just roll up some subsectors and go. The point is, though, that Traveller is a pretty awesome game, maybe the best for me.

Of course, I'm not counting games that I'd run (well, I'd run Traveller). That is currently a fixed list: AD&D 1E (with small alterations), GURPS Fantasy Old West (which I am running for myself using a solo GM emulator), MegaTraveller, ACKS, Fantasy Wargaming, Space 1889 (not the new one, the original GDW game), Chivalry & Sorcery. There are a couple of other games that I'd like to play, too, but not as seriously as the three I listed. Hârnmaster, D&D 5E, and RuneQuest 6E, notably, as well as any of those that I said I'd run.

What are you looking to play?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Goth of the Week

Aleksandra "Apsara" Kilczewska. There are many other beautiful shots and outfits that she has on her Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What Is This?

Over at Photoshop Disasters, there was this image of a four-eyed mountain sheep. It must have stats in some game or games. Share them with me! Is it a Gamma World mutant? A demon from the depths of AD&D's Abyss? Something else?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Goth of the Week

Claudia, picture by Mick Mercer (from his Gothic Rock). Found here.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Working On Stuff And A Personal Pep Talk

With some delays due to worldly affairs, I am still working hard on the retroclone of Fantasy Wargaming. Every once in a while, when I think about this project, I realize how much it is a labor of love. Hardly anyone else remembers that game with fondness as I do, and even restructuring it and developing it to make it more comprehensible and playable without a lot of interpretations and house-rulings (you know, like the original D&D boxed set required) are not likely to make it anything like a best-seller, even as roleplaying games go. Several reviews online are mostly hatchet jobs by people who have self-admittedly never played it, or who claim to have played it but seem to have missed a lot of details that might indicate that they are misremembering things (Mass and Confession do not cost mana in the game, they generate it for transfer to God, so that was a weird thing to say - some of the comments fix several of his misconceptions). It occasionally shows up in forum threads about "the worst RPG of all time", again from people who have manifestly never played it. Some just claim without evidence that the game has been "universally slammed" (as I recall, that capsule review is abbreviated from a more extensive and harsh original). I should point out at this point that I am talking about (and always have been on this blog) the Bruce Galloway, et al. game of that name, not the Martin Hackett miniatures rules (Hackett's system was later given a roleplaying supplement as Fantasy Gaming). I may discuss the latter at some point, but I will use the RPG title of those rules, rather than the title of the earlier, more purely miniatures rules.

It does help my morale at those times to recall that there are some pages on the internet which treat the game with the respect it deserves, not even counting my own review, and that the hatchet thread on RPGGeek (originally on BoardGameGeek, since that is where the game was originally, mistakenly, placed) I linked above is filled with some people who defend the game against the original posted review. And even in the most vile pits of gaming toxicity, there have been attempts to treat it on its own terms (the threadstarter gives his final analysis here,and I should mention in that context that, as far as I can tell, the authors got the thing about slaves singing from Petronius, as singing slaves is a repeated trope in the Satyricon, especially around Trimalchio). Actually, as I research this post, I see that as time has gone on the hatchet reviews by uninformed reviewers has been dwindling as a fraction of the total number, and that they have been replaced by reviews that are either, like mine, focused on the potential of the game, or at worst lay it out as a mediocre attempt, but full of inspirational material, or as a bizarre reminder of how beautifully crazy gamers can get.

As I keep on with this project, I see places where I'd like to expand it for use in other settings than just "Europe" (by which the game seems to mean, largely, England, France, Germany, and Italy, plus Scandinavia and Iceland in the early period, with a passing nod to the Celtic Fringe). I'd like to work in the Celtic world more completely (and given the evidence of polytheist practices up into the 14th century or so, I'd like to cover that material), the Muslim world from Persia to Moorish Spain, which was so vital to the Medieval period in Europe, the Balkans and Greece, Eastern Europe generally, the Caucasus, maybe even India, China, the Mongols, and Japan. Actually, I should probably cover the Mongols regardless, considering the effect that they had on Medieval Europe. Africa would be fascinating (imagine the Songhay or Mali Empires, or Zanzibar), as would the Pacific Islands, the source of the term "mana", though I'd have to learn a lot more than I currently know to be able to present those areas. The things that I'd have to do to incorporate those are pretty extensive, actually, as I'd have to work out how to phase out the astrology of Europe for those other locales. China and Japan would use Taoist ideas, of course, with Japan focusing on the concepts of Onmyōdō for example. India might use variations of astrology, though, and so would the Muslim world, so that wouldn't require as much alteration. I might have to come up with an entirely new way to handle some aspects of Buddhism, in order to keep up the approach of treating the world as the people of the time thought it to be (though, to be sure, some aspects could be handled in the same manner as Saints or polytheist gods). Even though it doesn't have substantial contact with these other places during the period, it might be worth the time to work on the Americas at some point, if for no other reason than to present the Skraelings for Viking explorers and colonists (and to be honest, the Inca and Aztec peoples are just plain fascinating).

Obviously, those things are ideas that I should put off to the future. I need to finish the basic game first.

What Medieval-era settings interest you most, meaning from the late 5th century through 1485CE?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Goth of the Week

The incredible Laurel R. Dodge, artist, burlesque performer, all-around wonderful woman, and another of my friends. This photo is from the 2013 Vampire Masquerade Ball in Portland, OR.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sixguns & Sorcery

Ever since Gary Gygax included a section on converting Boot Hill to use with AD&D in the DMG under that title, I have been attracted to the idea of a fantasy setting with revolvers instead of broadswords, boomtowns, stagecoaches, stetsons, and such. Heck, I remember reading an issue of The Avengers where they, along with Moondragon, pursued Kang the Conqueror back to the Old West (and they teamed up with the Two-Gun Kid), so all sorts of Marvel-style magic and whatnot got going in the setting, to say nothing of Jonah Hex. I've come closer and closer to what I want to do over the years. The inclusion of a variation of the Spirit Magic system from GURPS Voodoo: The Shadow War in the last edition of GURPS Old West under the 3E rules (to cover Native American shamanism in game terms) was enlightening. Until recently, though, I had thought of it as the American West. Suddenly, a couple years back while re-reading The Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time, I realized that I could create a separate fantasy world, with only the vaguest references to the real world, for the concept. I'd been told that I should read Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series in relation to the idea, too, so I picked those up recently and enjoyed them greatly (I liked the stories of Roland's younger days with his first ka-tet the better of the two periods that King chronicles, but both were quite excellent), but King's parallel universes aren't really what I want to explore with this. Which is not to say that I wouldn't play in a game someone was running set in Mid-World, because I sure would!

In researching for this blog entry, I've learned about a few other such settings, such as Teara Adan, and of course Castle Falkenstein had a supplement titled Sixguns & Sorcery, but they aren't quite what I'm looking to do. Specifically, I am not interested in making it a steampunk setting. It is decidedly fantasy, not science fiction, even of the Victorian style. Deadlands is pretty close, but a little further over-the-top than I want, plus it is tied to the historical Old West. As with Mid-World, if someone else were running any of these, I'd be up for it.

So here's what I've got going. I am going to run a solo game (using Mythic Game Master Emulator and GURPS 4E). Right now, I don't know much detail about the world other than the name of one county (Tioga County) located on the Great Plain. I've been calling it, alternately, the Sixguns & Sorcery game and the Tioga County game. Neither of those are ideal, but I haven't figured out what I want to call it for sure yet. I know that, someday, I will have characters in Tioga County who will work through a scenario based on the initial conditions, in a general sense, of the real-world Lincoln County War (famous for being the main exploits of Billy the Kid, and subject of movies from Chisum to Young Guns, and many others besides). I think that scenario will include the characters I call the Shootist and the Witch, David McArthur and Lizzie Hanchard, who I introduced on Friday with representative pictures, but I can't know that for certain, as they might die in a scenario before then. A lot of the details of the world will be generated as part of the Mythic GME process. In any case, it won't start in Tioga County or be centered around that area until the Tioga County War scenario gets going, and there's that issue of the Castle Falkenstein supplement. Maybe I should just stick with Fantasy West.

I do know a couple of things, I guess. I know that there are spirits and gods, known collectively as the fatas, but I only have the vaguest ideas about who exactly they are. There are something like traveling revivalist preachers. I know that technology is not much advanced beyond what existed in North America in 1860-70 or so, but there are no steam engines and so no trains. It's a world made almost entirely by hand. I'm pretty sure that there is a network of telegraph wires, though, run by animal- or water-powered generators. I know that metallic cartridge ammunition exists, but costs ten times as much as would be expected due to the difficulties of hand manufacture - most people rely on cap and ball with paper cartridges for ease of loading, and might even carry a bullet mold sized for their specific weapon. I know that there are semi-nomadic tribes living in the wilderness surrounding the towns, who don't have a lot of metallurgy (it's hard to carry a forge around with you), but trade for such items. I am not playing with the racism of the real-world Old West, so these tribes somewhat resemble the "barbarians" of the Hârn setting. I do have a vague idea that there are different cultures: in addition to the towns and the "barbarian" tribes, there are something like Mexicans in the south, some pseudo-Mormons in the mountain west, more civilized kingdoms (I think? They might be republics) in the east and the southern part of the west coast, pirate kingdoms along the southern coast, maybe some others. So, I guess I have a vague outline of a continent somewhat like North America in mind, but it's subject to change.

For rules, I plan to use the "Path/Book Magic" system found in GURPS Thaumatology, because I like it a lot. I want to use some of the more involved systems like Technical Grappling and "The Last Gasp", so that I can learn to use them more proficiently. Running solo means that I can spend as much time as I like figuring out what to use and when - I don't have to worry about pacing at the table. I'll definitely be using Social Engineering for personal interactions, which should make the solo game more manageable, or something. I'm trying to decide on whether I want to use Divine Intervention. I'm leaning to "no", though. There is definitely alchemy, which is mostly known by traveling snake oil salesmen (not all of whom are legitimate alchemists) and the occasional drugstore chemist in the larger towns. Some of the more adventurer-ready potions are pretty rare, though, as they tend to focus on healing potions of various kinds (and the occasional love potion), which is what they can sell to the average person. GURPS Martial Arts will be in use, though I am unsure as yet how prevalent various fighting styles will be. I plan to use the detailed gunfighting material from Tactical Shooting, and perhaps some of the more benign systems from Gun Fu. Some "cinematic" material is available, such as Gunslinger and Trained by a Master, but otherwise the setting is intended to be fairly gritty, with blood loss rules and other detailed injury material in effect. If it ever comes to it, I plan to use the "Tactical Mass Combat" variant. I dislike narrative rules like Signature Gear and the like, so those are not in effect. For timed advantages like Luck, I'll treat each "scene" under Mythic GME as an hour of play, regardless of how long it actually takes, and allow the characters an appropriate number of uses per scene. By default, NPCs will have Pacifism (Reluctant Killer) unless they have a reason not to have it, such as an alternative mental disadvantage representing some type of sociopathy or the like, or a (cheap, maybe 5 points) unusual background. Chances are I'll build these ideas into many of my PCs, too. Certainly, Lizzie Hanchard is a Reluctant Killer, though David McArthur has disadvantages representing his difficulties sleeping well (Insomnia and Light Sleeper) instead.

Speaking of "The Last Gasp", I've made a small change to it, as the fatigue recovery rates are just too punishing as far as I can see. They don't interact well with a number of the original systems, such as hiking. That's easily remedied, though, and can still keep the intent of the original by moving each category down a level, as it were, and making the quickest category based on 120 minutes. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry too much about it. It's a way to make fatigue a serious expenditure, which complements the Action Point system of short-term fatigue that the article introduces, rather than the original system which allows full recovery of all fatigue in a couple of hours, and the fatigue of most fights in 10 or 20 minutes.)

Let me see… I know that there are werewolves running through the woods (probably not like the ones in Ginger Snaps Back, but that is definitely inspirational material). Snolligosters, Whirling Whimpuses, and of course Jackalopes are around and about, among other creatures of North American legend. There may be dragons, I am not sure, or maybe dinosaurs. Or both.

Some of the specific movies that inspire the setting include (but obviously this isn't all):

Dead Man
Django Kill! If You Live, Shoot!
Eyes of Fire
Ginger Snaps Back
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
High Plains Drifter
I am Sartana, Trade Your Guns for a Coffin
If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death
The Magnificent Seven
Pale Rider
The Resurrectionist (an obscure one, to be sure)
Romasanta (aka Werewolf Hunter)
The Strangers Gundown
They Call Me Trinity
El Topo
The Valley of Gwangi

I want to add The Phantom Empire, but I've never yet had a chance to see it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Flanaess Sector

One of the campaigns that runs around in my head, that I'd like to run or better still play in, is what I tentatively call "Flanaess Sector". This is AD&D as a science fiction/science fantasy setting, though running it as a nearly hard-SF game (as "hard" as Traveller, say) could be very interesting indeed. Psionics and the Psionicist replace magic, technology is used instead of magic items, and the alien races are drawn from the more outré AD&D monsters. What it would need is a collection of new character classes, new technological items, starship rules, and perhaps trade and commerce rules (to handle Traveller style merchant campaigns, which are wonderfully flexible).

The aliens are mainly what I've given my thought to, little though it has been so far. I imagine an empire of Illithids, Ropers (which I imagine as being the first race that the Illithids were parasitic upon, drawing on the Urophion from The Illithiad) in a small sphere of resistance to the Illithids, Grell (in the Colonial Grell variety from Spelljammer), Neo-Otyugh, Neogi from Spelljammer with their Umber Hulk servants, maybe Xorn treated as a silicon-based life form, Flumphs, Ixitxachitl (suitably modified to not be based around Clerics, though they would make a great evil theocracy), Aboleths, and maybe a few others. I also greatly enjoy the Tyranids from Warhammer 40,000, so maybe those too. I don't have much love for humanoid aliens, but who knows? Maybe there are orcs or tabaxi among the stars.

The character classes might be based on the ones in Stars Without Number or maybe even Starships & Spacemen 2nd Edition, but rewritten to fit better with AD&D rather than B/X. Or, more likely, a set of interesting classes could be written from nearly whole cloth. I envision, in addition to the Psionicist I mentioned, Soldier, Pilot, Engineer (or Technician), maybe Merchant, Conman, and a few others. It being AD&D, there would be room for quite a few character class options. The classes in the old WotC Star Wars game might not be a bad set of choices.

Starships could be handled with any of a variety of systems. The aforementioned Starships & Spacemen and Stars Without Number are the obvious choices, but Terminal Space or some other OD&D-based SF supplement would be workable, as well. For that matter, Traveller's starships would work well, too. As an alternative, perhaps a system of Gates, similar to the ones in the Judges' Guild "Portals" trilogy, could connect the worlds. Perhaps not, though, as starships are half the reason to play SF instead of fantasy.

Here's a list of all the intelligent monsters from AD&D that I think would make good aliens: Aboleths, Beholders (but I don't want to use them, although there is a whole society built around them, especially in Spelljammer), Dopplegangers, Dragons (maybe, but if so, then especially the Blue or Black varieties), Flumphs, Formians (centaur-ants), Galeb Duhr (maybe, they're perhaps a little "magicky"), Grell (Colonial), Intellect Devourers, Ixitxachitl, Lizard Men, Mind Flayers, Myconids (there's also an ecology of mobile fungi for their homeworld, not to mention the special molds and slimes could be from their native environment, too), Neo-Otyughs, Ropers, Thri-kreen (mantis warriors), Treants (should they keep their ability to animate trees? I don't know; probably not, which is also a way to "fix" Galeb Duhr), Umber Hulks, and Xorn. Mi-go (if the DM has the first print Deities and Demigods) would fit perfectly into the setting.

As I said, I would prefer not using any humanoids (other than Lizard Men, Dopplegangers, and Myconids, perhaps), but if I did I would stick to the less common ones like Crabmen, Aarakocra (bird-men), Tabaxi (cat-men), Banderlogs, Grippli, and the like. Xill could be interesting, though they should probably have their ethereal powers and nature removed.

It might be interesting to include a "transcended" species that manifests as the faery creatures like Sprites, Pixies, and the like (there's a useful "ruling caste" for them to be found in Adventures Dark and Deep called Faeries). There's a race like that in the Star Fleet Universe, in the Omega Octant, called the Loriyill. Their starships have semi-magical effects like space fireballs and such.

Anyway, it seems like it could be a lot of fun, and leveraging the more science fiction/science fantasy elements of D&D seems like a good idea to me.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Feeling Bleh

No Goth of the Week this week due to meh. I'm thinking about what I want to post, but don't have anything ready and figured that I'd take some time off. Next week, though, is one of my favorite people. I'm also hoping to maybe get some actual playing time in for once this weekend, which will mean play reports. If I do, it's going to be the Tioga County game (sixguns & sorcery in a fantasy world similar to the Old West). I just have to finish making up the Witch, who is the second partner in my couple I call the Shootist and the Witch. The Shootist is David McArthur, a gunslinging adventurer. The Witch is Elizabeth "Lizzie" Hanchard, who talks to spirits.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Goth of the Week Two Year Anniversary Special

I began the Goth of the Week series on this blog two years ago today, with this entry. The idea for the series came from a blog called Underworld Cleaning Service, which has since gone quiet. He had his own Goth of the Week running for a while, though he didn't tag every post in that series. When he first went quiet, before he came back very briefly, I decided that I liked the series enough to want to keep it running. I picked a photo of a woman who was particularly lovely in my eyes, and I still think that she is among the most beautiful women I've seen. I had originally intended to use her picture to illustrate a V&V character I named Titania (and I'll probably give her stats at some point). I've since learned that her photo was taken at Wave Gotik Treffen in 2011, and have found more pictures of her, but still do not know her name. Anyway, I thought that maybe I should include some more photos of her today to celebrate two years of lovely goth people.

More behind the cut:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Goth of the Week

Sinflower, who is too weird to live, too rare to die. Photo found here.

The 10th will be two years since I started this series, so I have a special post planned for Sunday. See you then!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Another GURPS 4E Resource - Old West NPCs

I worked on this for a while, and I will probably get back to it. The plan was a sixguns & sorcery setting, with the Old West standing in for the more typical Barbarian or Medieval background. I love the idea, and I want to play in it, but my ideas for it are a little further-reaching than I'd wanted. Still, I have this for it. "This" refers to a set of NPC templates, built out of the NPCs in The Knuckleduster Cowtown Creator, one of the most useful resources for an Old West setting (whether game or fiction writing) that I've ever seen. The templates in that product were given stats for either Deadlands or D20, which wasn't very useful to me. However, GURPS Deadlands included conversion rules for Deadlands to GURPS Deadlands in the Dime Novel adventure titled Aces & Eights. Using the conversions straight resulted in heavily overpowered NPCs (the "Loafer" template, for example, originally weighed in at over 100 points!), so I toned them down considerably using a number of techniques. I still think that the point values might be a touch high, but they should work well enough for a high adventure setting. I also didn't convert the train-based templates (Conductor, Train Robber, etc.), as there aren't any trains in my sixguns & sorcery setting.

As usual, because of the lengthy nature, the actual stats are behind a cut.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

GURPS Voodoo For 4E

I've wanted to play a GURPS Voodoo solitaire game using Mythic Game Master Emulator for some time now. One of the things pushing me away is that I'd wanted to play it as a GURPS 4E game (among other things, so that I can become more conversant with those rules) using the "Path/Book Magic" system found in GURPS Thaumatology, but the setting was written for 3E. There are significant enough differences that it does require conversion to use. So, I've worked up the spirits, Lwa, and monsters in 4E terms. I'm hoping that any GURPS-fluent people might look at these and give suggestions on improving them if necessary.

You'll need both GURPS 4E and GURPS Voodoo (which apparently hasn't been released in PDF in the "GURPS Classic" line yet) to make use of this material, as all of the background and non-game mechanical stuff is in there. I have not explicitly included what spirits can do yet. I am working on a spirit template for GURPS Voodoo games, but it's the most complicated part of the whole conversion.

For all Possession effects, see GURPS Voodoo for special effects that apply. For Spirit Warrior templates, use the value given as the base for the Shapeshifting (Alternate Form) advantage. Note that if a character has some of the advantages and disadvantages involved in the Possession effects, it will change the Spirit Warrior base value.

The stats are long, so they are behind a cut.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Things I Know About The Middle Sea World 5

A portion of the hilly country along the coast north of the Long Sea is known as Cuniculashire. It is the home country of the Bunrabs, who are rabbit-like humanoids. They have characteristics very similar to those of halflings in other worlds, including the love of eating, living in underground warrens, and so on, combined with certain characteristics similar to those of gnomes in other worlds. They are a bit more gregarious than typical halflings, though, usually living in larger, communal warrens dug into the hills rather than individual burrows. Bunrabs have two special character types not found elsewhere: the Seers and the Healers. These will probably have character classes of their own (Seers may just be another name for Savants, found in Adventures Dark and Deep and A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore, possibly modified slightly for the Bunrabs). In addition, there are Bunrab Illusionists, similar to the gnomish variety. (For those curious, the Bunrabs are based on, but slightly changed from, the race found in Swordbearer.)

In the northern forests live a secretive race of beings known as the Uldra. These are not dissimilar to the gnomes of other worlds, but have many of their own characteristics. They are described in detail in Dragon magazine #119. Their cavalry ride reindeer.

Elves of the Middle Sea world either live mostly solitary lives (or in very small groups), or else a nomadic existence similar to Romanies in our world. The main exceptions to this are the three Faerie Courts.

Half-elves are pretty much what it says on the package.

Dwarves of the Middle Sea world are sometimes called "Machine Elves". They delve deep into the mountains, and say that they have a vast underground kingdom, where dwarves tend the World Machine. Perhaps this is true, but no one else has ever seen this World Machine, and the dwarves are not very forthcoming about what, exactly, it does. It doesn't help that all dwarves on the surface are self-admitted "deviants". No one, except possibly the dwarves themselves, is quite sure what that means, and the dwarves get quiet when pressed on that point.

"Half-Orcs" represent the more human-like ape-men. They cannot actually interbreed with humans.

There are no gnomes or halflings in the Middle Sea world, but see Bunrabs and Uldra above. Also, none of the various subraces of elves or dwarves exist, at least as player types.

There is a single kingdom, located on the eastern side of the mountains, that knows the secrets of building airships. These ships are expensive, though, and so there are not many of them. There are two sorts, airships with aerial sails, and airships with hand-cranked airscrews.

Sample airship, airscrew type: 40 turncranks, 1 captain-pilot, 1 pilot, 6 officers, 2 carpenters, 2 foremen (that is two shifts, allowing the vehicle to keep going 16 hours per day). Normal speed: 5mph (15"). Capable of bursts up to 20mph (60") for up to 15 melee rounds by tapping the flywheel, then requires 30 minutes at normal speed (or 15 minutes at a stop) to recharge 1 melee round worth of burst speed. Cargo, etc: 20 tons/40,000 pounds (can be used for artillery, troops, extra crew for artillerists and such, provisions, and so forth as well as cargo). Cost: 710,000gp (most of the cost is enchanting the hull so that it can levitate). The airship has 12-72 structure points. They normally mount several cannons on the upper deck, generally at least one facing in each of the four directions, that can be depressed or elevated to hit targets up to 45° off of horizontal.

I don't know what lies to the west, across the ocean. I've been looking to make some saltbox rules that would allow the players to discover that, if that's what they wanted to do.

I don't know what lies to the east, past the Wardoms of the Ablash Isle. Same situation.

The far south eventually leads to a realm of fire and volcanoes. The far north leads to an endless track of snowy wastes. Or so it is said.

For a while, I thought that the Middle Sea world was a small part of a giant ringworld or dyson sphere, but I now know that isn't the case (that would be a pretty neat environment, though; maybe someday, in another campaign).

I don't know who lives in the huge canyon just to the northwest of the sorcerer-kings' lands, but I do know that there is a trade route that passes through there and crosses the desert beyond. Are there bandit kings in that canyon? Possibly. I suspect, though, that it is mostly bands of ape-men.

In the sorcerer-king city-state of Morda, which I'd mentioned previously as being ruled by a necromancer-king, slavery is illegal. Such menial labor is performed by zombies and skeletons. Any slave entering the gates of Morda is immediately made a freeman on request and provided with a small stake to begin a new life. Slaveowners, of course, simply do not bring their slaves within the gates of Morda. However, the occasional escaped slave makes it to the gates and is granted asylum. It may be hazardous for such freed slaves to leave the Mordim lands, however.

Strange froglike beings known as Skwugs live in the marshes along the south edge of the Dead Lake (where the Kindred of Juiblex have their fortress). This is a colony of the main Skwug marshes along the edge of the Salt Sea in the Murai lands, however. How they crossed the desert, and how they maintain communication with their homeland (if they do), is unknown.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

Another Update In Lieu Of Content, Plus Wire Trolls

I didn't get any character classes finished this week, so instead you get this.

The main thing I've gotten done lately is quite a bit of work done on the Fantasy Wargaming retroclone and revision, and somewhat less work done on the Top Secret retroclone. For the former, I've finished the draft of the character creation chapter and am well into the chapter on magic. For the latter, character creation is pretty much finished and I've worked some on action resolution, mainly on the "contacts" system by which characters can acquire information and services in exchange for bribes, threats, or seductions, among other techniques.

I've been learning a bit more about the Middle Sea world, but not enough to make a post of its own yet. I'll get there.

I'm trying to decide if I should go with presenting the Fantasy Wargaming revision as a Dark Ages/Medieval setting, as it was originally, or if I should present an original setting. The advantage of an original setting would be getting to avoid the criticism leveled at the former of "giving stats for Jesus" (which, while technically true, wasn't really as big a deal as the critics made out, since the stats given were effectively infinite - God wasn't intended for use as a monster you can kill). The disadvantage, of course, is that the idea of a straight Dark Age/Medieval European setting is a compelling one, and one around which many of the mechanics are based. I am really leaning toward keeping it in Europe, at least as a basis. Perhaps I can work up another setting as a supplement, if any demand exists. Maybe the Middle Sea world could be dual-statted for AD&D and FW/whatever I end up naming it. There would have to be a lot of work to do so, though, as it would require, at the very least, an entire chapter just on the religions of the Middle Sea: the Tetradic Church, the Fatalist Church, the Radiant Church, the Denialists (who might need their own, new magic system, though it would actually be a modification of the standard one), and polytheists of several varieties (Kurai, Davrai, and Daling, at the very least), plus demon-worship.

I'm having to revisit the matter of setting with the Top Secret retroclone as well. In initial feedback, I heard from people that they'd prefer to see it set in the Cold War era of the late '70s/early '80s, just as the original was. However, since then, Merle Rasmussen has released his first TS adventure in decades, and it is set in the present world of conflicts with terrorist groups and rogue states. I could also provide information to cover the multiple eras, but that would take up quite a bit of space.

OK, after all that, you deserve something you can use, so as a Joesky Tax here are some stats for Wire Trolls (thanks go to Zak S for pointing out the picture, which coalesced some previously inchoate ideas that I had running around in my head):

Wire Troll

Frequency: Very Rare
No. Appearing: 1
Armor Class: 4
Move: 6"
Hit Dice: 6+1
% in Lair: 10%
Treasure Type: E
No. of Attacks: 2
Damage/Attack: 1-12/1-12
Special Attacks: Wires, Puppets
Special Defenses: Regeneration, Puppets
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Size: L (8' tall)
Psionic Ability: Nil
     Attack/Defense Modes: Nil
Experience: 825xp + 8xp/hp

The wire troll is a terrifying creature that wanders the wastes, using its puppets to forage for food and water, as well as to protect itself from attackers. They rely on the senses of the puppets, as their own are dim and weak.

While a wire troll can attack with its two great, maul-like hands, it prefers to send puppets to do its attacking for it. Those are, after all, expendable in the eyes of the wire troll. It will repair damage to its own body at the rate of 2 hit points per melee round, which will include severed parts coming back to the main body, or even forming an entirely new wire troll if the main body is destroyed by fire or acid, taking 3-18 melee rounds to do so.

The most feared attack of the wire troll is the sending out of wires, 1d4 per melee round, with a maximum of one per target per round. Each of these acts as a missile weapon, with a range of 10". If a wire hits, the target must make a saving throw (against petrification) or the wire embeds itself and attaches to the target's nervous system. At this point, the wire troll gains complete control and can manipulate the target to do anything the wire troll desires. Such puppets must remain within 10" of the wire troll at all times. A wire troll can never have more than 12 puppets at a time, and cannot voluntarily release any puppets. Puppets will retain all abilities, hit points, and so forth, except that no spellcasting abilities or divinely granted abilities will remain while a puppet. A wire troll cannot make a puppet out of a creature larger than itself.

Since the wires remain as a connection, it is obvious when a puppet is attached to a wire troll. The wire can be targeted by a sharp weapon to attempt to cut it, requiring a roll "to hit" against Armor Class 0, followed by a damage roll of at least 5 hit points of damage. Puppets released in such a fashion must make a System Shock survival roll, and will be disoriented and stunned for 1d6 melee rounds even if they succeed. If the wire troll can be killed, all of its puppets will be released without injury.

When encountered, a wire troll will have 2d6 puppets, of the following types:

1) human*
2) elf**
3) dwarf***
4) goblin
5) orc
6) gnoll
7) centaur
8) ogre
9) roll on random encounter chart
10) DM choice

*humans have a 10% chance of having a character class. Roll as per henchmen (DMG, p. 35).
**elves have a 20% chance of having a character class, as above.
***dwarves have a 15% chance of having a character class, as above.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

D12 Random Table - What Does The Mage Use For Protection?

Still feeling the heat, but it's getting better. Have a random table:

1 - A magic circle with crabbed writing around the edge

2 - An amulet carved from a star sapphire, depicting a rooster-headed figure with serpents for legs

3 - A small, sealed bottle filled with urine and iron nails

4 - A crucifix

5 - A small box containing magical writing on paper, fastened to the back of his hand with ribbon arranged in a specific pattern

6 - A human tooth that once belonged to a Saint

7 - A cockatrice bezoar set in a silver cage and hanging on a silver chain

8 - A union suit embroidered with magical symbols

9 - A dog skull engraved with secret signs

10 - A wooden disk with a concave surface, painted black with a red pentagram and mystic writing in white

11 - A circular, concave silver mirror set in a wooden triangle

12 - Roll twice on this table

Friday, July 18, 2014

Goth of the Week

A model who goes by the name of Forbudt. I really like this look, though it's not my own style.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Polytheism And Religion In Games

The heat wave is continuing here, though things are getting better. I haven’t done any work on the blog at all, so there’s a good chance I won’t have the Middle Sea Witch class done by Monday. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll work on the Bullrider instead.

But I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about polytheism in game worlds.

Most people think that polytheism is just like monotheistic religion. However, there are many characteristics of polytheistic religion that make it completely distinct from the latter. For one, there is no exclusivity. That should seem obvious, but people designing games tend to forget that and make their “polytheistic” cultures look like a whole lot of competing monotheisms, or at least henotheisms (henotheism is the practice of acknowledging that there may be other gods, but worshiping/venerating only one). This becomes particularly noticeable in those settings where gods generate power through the number of their followers, and so the competition for worshipers ends up being fierce.

Now, it has been rightly pointed out that in polytheistic cultures, there are priests or other religious specialists who focus strongly on just one god. This does not, however, change the fact that the general body of the people give honor to any number of gods, and even the religious specialists are known to look to other gods when the need or desire arises. Also, there is a marked tendency in most games for a priest specialist to pick the “strongest” god, as the powers that the priest will be able to wield will be determined by their god. This flies in the face of the historical fact that there have always been priests who focus on even the smallest gods – or even non-god beings like nymphs.

To illustrate the point, let’s look at how various games handle religion, whether well or poorly.

First up, the basic D&D approach (also used by most D&D-like games) is to have a Cleric class which represents the main way to approach the gods. In some versions, other characters are allowed a slight chance of appealing to the gods by invoking their name and hoping for a good die roll to get Divine Intervention. The second mechanic there goes a long way toward alleviating the problem, but limiting the majority of divine appeals to a specialist class is something that is particularly a characteristic of monotheistic religions. A good rule that would help even more than the Divine Intervention chance is to incorporate the ability to get one-time bonuses for a character of any class who makes an offering to the god at their shrines, temples, or whatever. For instance, by buying and sacrificing a sheep at the temple of Fortuna (with the aid of the priests of the temple, of course), the character might be given one reroll (must take the second roll) to use at any time in the future. Or whatever, maybe even one-use spells of an appropriate level to the character (and certainly the bonuses carried at one time should be limited by character level, perhaps one bonus per level). This should probably require tracking the piety of the character with regard to that god – those who blaspheme Fortuna shouldn’t get her bonuses without making some sort of appropriate penances. There was a good method of tracking such piety in the old FGU game Lands of Adventure. Of course, now that we’re tracking piety in relation to each god, we should work that into the system somehow, but I’m not here to write up an entire method.

Speaking of Lands of Adventure, religion in that game is handled much like it is in D&D, where characters choose one god from whom they get most of their divine powers, leading to a henotheistic system rather than a polytheistic one.

Next, we find RuneQuest (and, to an extent, HeroQuest). In that game, characters can become Initiates of various Cults, each dedicated to a deity. Even non-Initiates (called Lay Members, though Lay Members still have to undergo a minor initiation – they just don’t have to sacrifice POW to get their initiation) can often gain some bonus from the Cult. This is a very good approach, but leaves out the possibilities, common in historical polytheisms, of approaching gods one has not yet had a chance to become acquainted with, not to mention the fact that, normally, becoming a Lay Member should give one access to all of the gods of the culture. Still, RQ is a great way to approach polytheist religion, and I recommend it. Not surprising, really, as the designer of the original RQ setting, Glorantha, is an active and practicing polytheist himself.

In Chivalry & Sorcery, religion is dealt with cursorily, by specifying religious practitioners and giving them powers, pretty much ignoring the gods themselves. Eh, it works, but has all of the problems present in the D&D system. At least by avoiding naming particular gods and sticking to the social roles (“Priest”, “Druid”, “Shaman”, or whatever), the C&S system avoids the problems of seeming to be a henotheistic semi-polytheism.

GURPS Voodoo takes a slightly different tack, by ignoring the religion parts, but treating the gods for what they can do. Anyone can approach any god (or “Loa”, more properly spelled “Lwa”) and ask for assistance (which is generally granted by the dispatch of messengers – what Christianity and some other religions might call Angels – to provide assistance). In some cases, that process is treated generically, as a regular use of magic. In other cases, it involves the specific summoning of Manifestations (the aforementioned messengers). Some characters have an entourage of spirit helpers. Finally, certain characters, called “Spirit Warriors”, are given the ability to call on the powers of the god (or Lwa) and manifest them in their own body. This is a really good system.

An obscure game (which I plan to review eventually) is Legendary Lives. This game handles religion well enough, but no better, by giving characters a choice (or roll) of religion based on their culture. This system is only added in the supplement, Societies Sourcebook, though. Every character is given a Devotion score, which acts as a skill in relation to religious powers. The details of what Devotion does vary by religion. Unfortunately, the game falls into the D&D trap of treating individual gods as religions in themselves.

Pendragon is one of the better treatments of religion in gaming, though it avoids immersing players in the role of religion. Characters have five Personality Traits, known as Religious Traits, that are related to their religion, and if those Traits are kept at a high enough level the character gains special bonuses, varying by religion. Beyond that, religion is mainly assumed to be a strong background factor. Unlike Fantasy Wargaming, to choose one example (see below), the characters are given no reason to pursue religious ceremonies (except for the relatively minor effect of being a requisite for the Pious Personality Trait – which is actually a hindrance to Saxon Heathens, for whom the opposing Trait, Worldly, is one of their Religious Traits).

Hârnmaster allows characters to gain piety points that they can spend in exchange for miraculous interventions. The religion system of Hârn resembles the normal henotheism of most games, though. It could perhaps be fixed if characters were allowed to accumulate piety in regard to all of the gods involved, but that might end up being too complex to handle easily in the game.

Unknown Armies only tangentially deals with religion, and mostly from the point of view espoused by Chaos Magick. Characters may pursue becoming an Avatar of a particular Archetype. Archetypes are the game’s equivalent to gods, and the more that a character manifests that Archetype by emulating it, the more of that Archetype’s powers can be expressed by the character. A good system for the setting and ones that use similar assumptions, but not one that fits most historical religions.

Speaking of modern-day/near-future games, Shadowrun has gods of a sort, but they are relegated to a secondary role. The totems in that system factor in as “gods” after a fashion. I wonder if it would be possible to make actual gods using that template? I suspect that it would end up looking very much like D&D-style henotheism, though.

Whatever other merits or flaws it might have, Dogs in the Vineyard treats its religion very well. However, it is focused on one specific sort of religion, in which there is a religion of the Community, and forces outside of that religion that attempt to destroy the Community. Like real-world Mormonism, the religion of DitV tries to account for the polytheistic peoples living around them, and does so only moderately well. Certainly, the religion system in DitV could be adapted to other monotheistic religions, or even the henotheistic ones of most D&D games.

There are other games with religious systems, such as The Riddle of Steel, The Burning Wheel, Wyrd is Bond, and so on, but they are minor and don’t really fit into historical religious beliefs, in my opinion, no matter how good they may be as games. They generally end up appearing much like D&D-style henotheism.

My favorite approach, though, is that in Fantasy Wargaming. In that game, both monotheistic and polytheistic religions are covered (the former primarily by Christianity and Satanism, the latter by Norse religion), and the system manages both well. Characters in that game are given a “religious rank”, which is not directly tied to the Religion level (FW uses a system where every character has three levels: Combat/Adventuring, Magic, and Religion, corresponding to the original three classes in published D&D, with characters generally starting at level zero in each). For Christians, this is either as Lay Clergy at the lower ends of the scale, Ordained Clergy, Monks, or Friars (or Religious Knights), with most characters having no religious rank at all. Satanists are all given a minimum rank, and there is no particular process of Ordination, so that characters may rise in the Devil’s hierarchy on their merits. Norse pagans have two main tracks – either as Priests or as Laity. Priests have a higher minimum/starting religious rank, but Lay members are actually capable of gaining a higher religious rank than Priests (although only if they can manage to become King or Queen)! For the most part, religious powers mainly consist of Ceremonies, which dedicate Mana (magical power) to the god or gods being worshiped and provide a bonus to morale for a while and a chance of Inspiration to the participants, which gives various bonuses, along with other benefits depending on the Ceremony. Anyone may appeal to higher (or lower) powers for a Miracle, which is resolved by the invoked power using the methods of the magic system to cause changes in the world (or, in a few cases such as Resurrection of the dead, the magic system is used in a modified form). Characters can have “patrons”, which gives the character a bonus in appealing to that power (the Norse ones usually are given at birth, and their patron’s name is typically incorporated into their personal name). There is no method given in FW for changing patrons during the game, which is something I will add in my rewrite of the system. Another aspect that helps the system work well is the concept of “Intervention”, whereby an appeal is made to one power who is asked to Intervene with another power. This has benefits in the matter of patronage mentioned, but also because some powers are more difficult to appeal to than others. In the Norse religion, the personal feelings and relationships of various powers affects this chance of Intervention, as well, so that, for instance, the wife of a god will have a better chance of Intervention with that god, while two gods who hate each other (Loki and Heimdall, for instance) reduce the chance of successful Intervention. Finally, each power has areas of Favor and Disfavor, which affects the likelihood of the power responding to the appeal. Altogether, this system became the first to incorporate the personalities of the powers into the game system in a meaningful way. So, this system included both the religious (characters can attend or perform Mass, for example) and the miraculous (through the process of appeals) into one system. Sometimes both are incorporated, such as the rites of Benediction and Malediction. The primary weakness of the FW system in regard to religion is the handling of “negative” piety, which is always assumed to place one in communication with the Devil, even if a Norse pagan. I hope to address this problem in my revision of the game.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Outdoorsman

It's Monday, so that means it's time for another class for AD&D1E.

The Outdoorsman

Some people spend a lot of time wandering the wilderness. The most elite become Rangers, but a large number just learn to live there without learning magic and druidry. Those types become Outdoorsmen, sometimes called Hunters or Scouts.

Humans, half-elves, and half-orcs are the most common outdoorsmen, but there are a few halflings who wander the wilderness as well. Halflings are limited to 5th level as outdoorsmen, while half-orcs can only reach the 7th. Half-elves can rise as high as 10th if their strength is 18 or higher, 9th with a strength of 17, or 8th level with a lower strength. An outdoorsman requires a minimum score of 12 in strength, dexterity, and constitution, and an intelligence of 10. If an outdoorsman has a score of 13 or higher in all of strength, intelligence, and dexterity, they gain a +10% bonus to experience. Outdoorsmen may be of any alignment, though there is a marked tendency for them to not be of Lawful alignments.

Outdoorsmen fight using the Cleric table. They may use any weapon less than 5’ in length and any armor except plate, splint, and banded mail. They may not use great helms or large shields. Outdoorsmen start with 2 weapon proficiencies (at least one of which must be a missile weapon) and gain another every 4th level. They suffer a penalty of -3 when using weapons with which they are not proficient.

A new outdoorsman character starts with 3d6×10 gold pieces in money and goods (most will have a collection of valuable furs and such rather than any coins), and human outdoorsmen will begin at age 14+1d4 years old. (Other races, I’m not sure yet. Make something up that seems reasonable.)

Experience Points
Hit Dice (d8)
Level Title
Cover Tracks
Mountain Man
Outdoorsman (10th)
Outdoorsman (11th)
Outdoorsman (12th)

Outdoorsmen require 225,000 experience points per level after the 12th. They gain 2 hit points per level after the 9th. Cover Tracks percentage increases 3% per level.

Outdoorsmen have several special abilities (note that bonuses and penalties for thief-like abilities due to race, dexterity, armor worn, and so forth are the same as for thieves):

1. Outdoorsmen can climb cliffs and trees at the same chance as a thief of equal level can climb walls. The ability to climb cliffs also allows the outdoorsman to attempt to climb sheer walls.

2. They may hide in natural terrain using camouflage techniques at the same chance as a thief of equal level can hide in shadows.

3. Outdoorsmen may set, find, and remove traps in a natural environment at the same chance as a thief of equal level has to find and remove traps. This includes pits, snares, and the like, but does not include mechanical traps in buildings or in dungeons.

4. Outdoorsmen may attempt to cover tracks. This ability has an effect similar to the 1st level druid spell pass without trace, but is not magical in nature. An outdoorsman making use of this ability can only move at half speed, and the chance of success is listed on the table above. The ability can only affect the person using it, so an outdoorsman may not cover the tracks of others in the party. To use this ability to confound creatures that track by scent is more difficult, and requires that the outdoorsman be at least 5th level. If the outdoorsman is of appropriate level, then the check against cover tracks when used to defeat scent-based tracking is rolled at -25%.

5. Outdoorsmen surprise opponents on 1-3 on a d6, and are only surprised on a 1.

6. Outdoorsmen may track as a Ranger, but the base chance of success is 75% and outdoorsmen may not attempt to track indoors or underground.

7. When an outdoorsman is evading pursuit in an outdoor environment, and the outdoorsman is not already covering tracks, the chance to evade is increased by +10%.

8. When traveling overland, the outdoorsman may take 1d6 hours out of travel time to hunt. This requires a roll “to hit” using a missile weapon against AC10. Success provides 1d6 meals worth of standard rations (one day worth of food for one person is 3 meals).

Outdoorsmen, similar to Rangers, only keep what they can carry on themselves, a mount, and at most one baggage animal. They will never load their mount past the “unencumbered” load limit. Outdoorsmen do not gain any special benefits from building a castle or other stronghold.

(Based loosely on the Bandit class in Dragon magazine #63.)

Since the Mountebank and Bard classes in the Middle Sea world are taken directly from Adventures Dark and Deep or A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore without significant modification, I won't be presenting them here (I could, since they are designated as Open Content, but why do it?). That just leaves the Witch and possibly the Beastmaster (still thinking on whether there are any examples of the latter in the Middle Sea world). After those, I'll probably start presenting various character classes that just interest me, but which aren't present in the Middle Sea world. Or maybe I'll just end the series. Who knows? There's also a possibility that I will present some other classes before I finish the Witch of the Middle Sea world. I should eventually work up the Bullriders of the Davrai, so that's a possibility. As well, the Corsairs of Apalach Isle might have a separate character class associated with them, or they might just be regular sailing Fighters and Magic-Users. I don't know yet - they are pretty far from the campaign starting area, so I haven't really felt the need to know.

Outside of character classes as such, I want to cover the airships of the Twelve Kingdoms that lie to the east, a couple of which can be found in the city-states of the sorcerer-kings. I also need to work up the characteristics of the main ship types that can be found sailing around the Middle Sea, the Western Coast, and the Long Sea.

I also need to spend some time one of these days learning how to use one or the other of these Virtual Tabletops. Does anyone have any recommendations for which works best for AD&D 1E? Keep in mind that my poor little laptop is pretty old (2GB, 1.73GHz Pentium M), so that might affect your recommendations.